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The wooden try or jointer plane

The wooden try plane:

Wooden try or jointer plane

I've been reading about planes (looking at you, Chris Schwartz), and have been using my block plane for years. My low-angle jack plane, for about a year. Starting to get the hang of it. I enjoy it. I like hand tools. They're fun, they feel good.

But - as many others have found - crappy equipment makes for a terrible experience.

Jointers, however, are expensive, and occupy precious room. And I just happen to have a bunch of wooden planes I've picked up at garage sales for next-to-nothing. Turns out, that's what they're worth. These planes are eye candy, nothing more.

Except, happily, for the plane above.

I've gotten reasonably good at sharpening. Not as good as the authors of sharpening-is-easy articles in glossy woodworking magazines seem to imply, but good enough now that my planes are useable, and my chisels work well. Good enough that I tried to make my wooden planes work.

Turns out that most of my planes have horribly pitted, nasty blades and irons. Not salvageable. But I've learned what to look for.

All but one had an uneven sole. Fixable, sure. But when there's substantial twist, ask yourself if it's worth it. You'll widen the mouth considerably when you flatten the sole - probably warrants a new sole if you remove enough wood, and else a mouth insert.

I've discovered that I can joint an edge, but I'm not good enough yet with a plane to flatten the sole of another. Some use sandpaper on a backing board - should work. I haven't tried it. Beware of any grit that may imbed in the sole, if you do.

Miraculously, that lovely 24" plane, just the right length for a try or jointer, turned out to have a perfectly flat sole. It's seen decades of neglect, and could be a century old or more. And it's flat.

So I fit the blade, wedged it, and learned to adjust it. Tap, tap, tap. Tap the strike button. Tap, tap. Blade again. Strike button. Blade. Strike button. Blade.

Got the grip. Took my first cut. Some short curls, and some nasty chatter. A few more passes, and I'd chewed up the edge of the wood worse than a beaver with a toothache.

I did what I always do when stymied: stop. I was pretty sure this was not how it was meant to work. What I did not know is whether this was me - my utter lack of grace and finesse - or the tool.

So I stared. Staring at a problem doesn't always make things better, but it's a trusty part of my routine.

The mouth opening *looked* okay. About 1/16" wide, should be okay for a fairly fine shaving. I think. I am, after all, a handplane rookie.

But maybe, maybe, it looked a little uneven. I pulled out the blade. Not quite an even rectangle; it seemed the bed side of the opening was not quite straight. I had read about this - if the bed's uneven, the blade is not evenly supported. Makes sense it could chatter.

The straight-edge confirmed that the bed was off. Damn.

None of the reading I'd done told me how to fix this problem. I had a pretty good idea, however, that just randomly cutting at the bed could turn a potentially decent plane into firewood.

Fortunately, Google rescued me. It seems ironic that something as modern as the Internet could actually save ancient crafts from extinction, but it's possible. It's helped me. Bob from Logan's Cabinet Shoppe showed me how to troubleshoot a wooden plane, then how to fix the bed. I don't know if using a lit candle is traditional, but it worked beautifully. Though I did use a milled-tooth file in addition to a chisel, with a beautifully smooth, flat bed as result.

It worked.

Blade back in. Wedge in. Few taps to adjust.

Beautiful curls of wood.

- PD

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